MADRID (Reuters) - Australia retired one game into their doubles dead rubber against Belgium at the Davis Cup Finals, placing the revamped tournament under further scrutiny a day after Canada forfeited a doubles rubber against the United States.
With a scheduling logjam pushing matches past midnight for a second successive day, Australia won both their singles against Belgium to seal a quarter-final clash against Canada but had little motivation to try for a sweep in the early hours of Thursday.
Australia’s John Peers and Jordan Thompson did take the court for the Group D doubles rubber but walked off after claiming the opening game.
Belgium, knocked out of the tournament, were given a 6-0 6-0 win by organisers.
Tennis Australia tweeted that Peers had “wrist injury concerns” but captain Lleyton Hewitt later said the doubles specialist had a sore elbow.
“It was an easy decision for me because I’m not risking him before we have a quarter-final match tomorrow,” Hewitt told reporters.
“He’ll be getting treatment tonight and icing it. Hopefully it pulls up well for tomorrow night.”
Canada forfeited their doubles rubber in Tuesday’s Group F clash against the United States, also after winning both singles rubbers.
“Three of the Canadian players were passed unfit to the play the doubles,” organisers the ITF said at the time.
With the two best runners-up in the six groups joining the group winners in the quarter-finals, the United States stood to benefit from being effectively gifted the two 6-0 sets.
But the Americans were ultimately knocked out despite beating Italy 2-1, with their three-set victory in the deciding doubles rubber finishing after 4 a.m. local time (0300 GMT).
Before the United States-Italy match, world No. 2 Novak Djokovic said it was unfair the Americans had been awarded a 6-0 6-0 win by forfeit.
“I think everyone should be obliged to come out and play, at least play,” he said after Serbia beat Japan 3-0.
Britain’s Andy Murray agreed.
“I don’t think that’s good. I was saying I felt like one of the positive things to the way the group stages work is that all of the matches are live, there isn’t any dead rubbers.
“So where Canada may have felt that that was a dead rubber in theory for them because they were already through, that could have implications to all of the teams potentially that might finish in second place.
“Also they would have had two days off as well after that so I think they should have played the tie.”
Canada will face Australia in the first quarter-final later on Thursday, with the benefit of an extra day’s rest compared to their opponents.
“Yeah, there’s not a lot we can do, really,” said Hewitt.
“At least they’re on a night schedule, they should be used to it.”
The best second-placed nations are decided first on matches won, then individual rubbers, then sets and then games.
Reporting by Martyn Herman in Madrid and Ian Ransom in Melbourne, editing by Pritha Sarkar / Peter Rutherford